Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My very own bare-chested cowboy

Here it is, the cover of my April Blaze, Still Irresistable, about Callie Cunningham, a Manhattan events planner who must turn her father's failing guest ranch into a desert getaway and hooks up again with a high school love, Declan O'Neill.

I have to say this cover goes well with the story, though Deck never wanders around half naked. Well, there are those scenes in the hot springs...but I digress.

The desert hills in the background are important to the story and Callie and Deck's relationship, so I'm quite happy about it.

What do you think? This is only the second cowboy book I've written. Do readers still like a cowboy on the cover?

Here's hoping they do!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Floggings will continue until morale improves

Which works better, the carrot or the stick?

I have mixed feelings--oh, yeah? So what's new, Ms. Ambivalence? The carrot is much more pleasant and fun. Who doesn't like a nice juicy goal to strive for? But fearing that stick, the whack across the butt when you're lazy or screwing up, that can be very motivating.

Supposedly, according to behavior modification theory, positive reinforcement results in bigger gains that become permanent. Fear of negative reinforcement, or punishment, has more immediate results, but they don't last. Once the stick is gone, the mice will play, to mix metaphors.

Let's take a real life example. I take classes at my gym with two teachers. Both classes are fun and challenging and exhausting. One teacher teases and goads and jokes you into pushing harder, striving to get past that burn to greater strength and endurance--"Come on, you can do it, i know you can, just 8 more reps!"
The other takes a harsher approach--"Don't blow it, don't be weak, you're struggling? Too bad, don't stop, come on. Push yourself. Get with it." She shames you into pushing harder.
Over this holiday period, it's been damn tough to keep my motivation to exercise high and my cookie consumption low. So twice this week I was just too tired, too sluggish, too hungover from carbs and wine to make my class. One time I went. One time I didn't.
Each time I thought about what the class would be like. In the end, I went to the carrot lady's class because I knew that even if I didn't do my best, she'd make me glad I came. I skipped the stick lady's class because I didn't want to feel like a loser.

I might have pushed harder in the stick-lady's class--I would have, being ashamed to show weakness--but I WENT to the kinder class. Because I knew I'd feel good no matter how hard I worked. Even if I barely moved, I'd have done SOMEthing good.
There's my answer. I might work harder with a stick at my back, but I'll enjoy it more and stay with it longer if it's a carrot I'm after, not a stick I'm avoiding.

How about you? Are you a carrot or stick person? And what, specifically, are your carrots and sticks--rewards and punishments--when you're doing something difficult?

Here's to 2009! I wish for you all that you wish for yourself.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Year's Suggestions

New Year's Resolutions--Can't live with 'em, can't tear 'em up and leave 'em at the side of the road.

I'm in a quandary about New Year's goals--I don't call them resolutions any more. Sounds too grim. For the last few years, I've taken some time each New Year's Eve day to look over the goals I set the previous year, analyze my success, then write a new set of goals. When I've achieved the items, I'm thrilled. When I've failed, abject misery and self-flagellation commences.

After a year filled with with family trauma, where several goals went right out the window, I'm afraid I'll be just too blue looking at all I failed to achieve. That's no way to start a fresh year.

That new mainstream project I was supposed to finish? Didn't touch it. The suspense that should have been sold by now? Out for critique. That regular meditation, daily fresh writing I swore I'd do? Didn't happen.

So I have some choices to make. Don't even look at last year's list? Start fresh? Or, make the new list so easy I can't fail? Things like: eat three meals, check e-mail, meet contract deadlines. That's lame. But I don't want to face a new year feeling like I blew the previous one. Already, I grasp at each passing week, trying to squeeze out a little extra time as it flies by.

The other problem is that even though I post the list in my line of sight at the computer, I RARELY read the damn thing. You can't achieve goals you don't keep top of mind, right? So that's not good either.

So, I'm thinking of changing my approach. I'll make a list of New Year's Suggestions: For example: "Consider spending an extra writing hour a day working on new projects. If you feel like it. If it's comfortable. If not, no sweat. Who cares? No biggie...."

Feels lame, like I expect to fail, right? Except I'm using reverse psychology. "You know you'll never do this, you lazy fool." Them's fightin' words. I can feel the fire stoking. You're damn straight I can do that. With one hand tied behind my back and my eyes closed!

Hmm, already it seems to be working.

Give it a try. Give yourself some New Year's Suggestions. I'd love to hear your plans or how you approach the Old Year/New Year conundrum. Maybe you treat it as the Buddhists do: "All is unfolding as it should."



Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Card Hell

I want to talk about Christmas cards. I'm not good with them. I'm kind of schizoid.
I LOVE getting them from friends and family, especially when they write a brief catch-up note, too. I love the mass-produced Christmas letters, too.

I'm not good at sending them. It's intimidating. I want it to be personal. I used to spend weeks doing it, selecting just the right photo for close friends.

The best I manage these days is "defensive card-giving," writing back to everyone who sends me a card.

For the last three years since, I've sent out very few cards at all. I had excuses--family crises, impossible deadlines, SOMEthing. I keep up a decent email correspondence with people I love. Friends have found me through Facebook and that's cool.

This year I have no excuse except a sense of despair. I feel like if I can't write a decent note, I shouldn't send a card and that's a lot of notes. I'm daunted.

My laziness is catching up with me. This year, we've only received a handful of cards. Does that mean our friends have crossed us off their list--determined we're the ungrateful slobs we are? As I stare into my empty mailbox I feel like the bad girl with coal in her stocking.

Do young people (21-30) even SEND cards? Or do they simply twitter their greetings?

What do you think about the Christmas card tradition? How do you handle it? How do you feel about people you never hear from? What about email cards? Yes or no? Cool or lazy? What would Emily Post say? I'm afraid to know.

Here's hoping your Christmas card status is green all the way! And if you're waiting by your mailbox for one from me....ulp.

Now back to this book that will not END.
All my Best,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Diet Coke and Other Evil Habits

I'm quitting Diet Coke...specifically Diet Cherry Zero. If you're a diet Coke drinker, you have to try this. Or maybe not, since it's a tough habit to break.

I've tried to quit carbonated beverages before with little success, buying flavors I don't like, substituting diet green tea or Crystal Lite, but that never lasted long.

I read on a writer's loop that carbonation leached calcium from bones. That was scary, so I researched it, finding that the only legit study showed some loss of calcium only with cola drinks. So I tried again, but cola has the kick that goes with the fuzz I love with soda, dammit. No one's taking that away from me! Soon my consumption doubled, as if to make up for lost time, and it was ALL the hard stuff, baby.

Little things happened over time. A dear friend told me she seemed to have reversed some bone loss by quitting her Coke habit. I noticed how much my stomach burned after the third can of the day, and how much hungrier I seemed when I snacked with a Coke. One of my exercise teachers declared she'd quit diet Coke and was feeling better.

Then my husband ended up in the emergency room with a kidney stone. Yikes. His doctor suggested carbonated soda contributes to the problem, though the ER doc claimed that was a myth.

Suddenly, I found myself cutting back and it was easy. It wasn't the kidney stone, really, at least not consciously, but like magic, I'm drinking more water, supplementing with Crystal Lite and those new Tropicana diet orange and lemonade drinks in cans and doing fine.

I don't really miss the Coke. I drank other sodas, too--Dr. Pepper Diet Vanilla Cherry, the new flavored Frescas, Mountain Dew Code Red, etc., but I'm down from a four-can-a-day habit to one, looking to go cold turkey in a week or two.

For the life of me I can't figure out why THIS time I'm succeeding. I suspect it's something my friend--and brilliant writing coach--Laurie Schnebly Campbell calls "sizzling," which is the period of time when you want to break a habit and flip-flop back and forth, doing, not-doing, like bacon on the stove.

Over time, the urges built, the false starts strengthen your willpower until you reach the tipping point and you're IN.

They say it takes 21 days to break or begin a habit. Somehow, you've got to last that long, right? That means sizzling your way to the peak and over.

So, how do YOU do it? Got any habits you're taking a swing at? What's working? Please share. We're all in this struggle to improve ourselves. Let's cheer each other on. Your tip might be someone's tipping point!

What's next on my habit hit list? Paradise Bakery cookies. That'll take a while. I'm cutting back...maybe... Sure. Just not this week. It's Saturday, after all, and what goes better with a Netflix movie than a few freshly baked cookies and the place is right up the street...
My best wishes on your habit zone,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

World's Best Time Wasters--We Need You

Okay, so this is my second post IN ONE DAY on my brand new one-author blog that I put together while on a web conference about digital media promotion from my publisher, Harlequin.

I've got a facebook page, but that's not author-based so much.

I blog occasionally on and I have a Web site,, but other than that I'm not that social-media conscious.

What makes me think I can keep this up? Especially because I can't be too bitchy or controversial here--that's like showing up at the hospital in bad underwear, or inviting company when the house is a mess. I'm gonna give it a try, though, especially because right now I NEED it.

Anything to avoid my current book. Or maybe I'll go scrub grout in the shower. That, too, sounds more appealing than this plot snarl I'm stuck in.

Which brings me to the point...what's your favorite way to waste time when you should be doing something else? I'm looking for things to add to my list, heh, heh.
All my best,
Dawn Atkins

Dawn Atkins Blogs Alone

Here it is! My very own personal blog. Stay tuned for the dribbles of thoughts, ideas and ponderings--profound, profane and mundane-- from romantic comedy author Dawn Atkins.
Be among the first five to say hello and you'll win a copy of my current release. I'm feeling pretty generous today.
Check out my Web site:
For now, back to my deadline!
Dawn Atkins